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So you want to go on an exotic birding trip? Here are some tips

Expect to spend from $2,500 on up, depending on the destination, the purpose of the trip and how many guides will be needed, the length of the trip and the size of the group.

Sword-billed Hummingbird Hacienda El Bosque Col_DSC_5812 (1024x732).jpg
Sword-billed hummingbird, photographed Jan. 23, 2023, at the Haciendia El Bosque in Colombia.
Contributed/Beth Siverhus

Avid birder and nature photographer Beth Siverhus of Warroad, Minn., shared a few tips for anyone interested in traveling to more exotic birding destinations such as Central and South America.

  • For camera gear, Siverhus carried a Nikon D500 camera with a Nikkor 200-500mm telephoto lens, along with a smaller Olympus E-M5III with a 12-200mm lens on her recent birding trip to Colombia.
  • She used “Merlin,” a free birding app, to help identify birds while going through her collection of photographs after the trip. Even though the trip was guided and the birders checked off all of the species they saw each day, the Merlin app came in handy, Siverhus says.
Beth Siverhus of Warroad and Kris Guggisberg of Roseau were among the birders who visited Colombia on a Jan. 15-Feb. 2 birdwatching tour.

  • When birding in Central or South America, it’s best to go during the dry season, as it is difficult to tromp around looking for birds in pouring rain. For Siverhus’ 2011 trip to Ecuador, dry season was in mid-late October; in the Colombian Andes, it was mid January. 
  • Expect to spend from $2,500 on up, depending on the destination, the purpose of the trip  and how many guides will be needed, the length of the trip and the size of the group. Some tours will have more deluxe accommodations than others, and it will cost more to have a private room rather than share with another person.
  • A birding trip to Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica would probably cost between $2,500 and $5,000 depending on the length of the trip. South American countries will be pricier.
  • Tour cost usually includes food, lodging, transportation and guide fees. Additional costs to the traveler would be the airfare to the destination city – where the tour begins – tips for the guides and bus drivers, spending money and travelers insurance. 
  • If possible, talk to others who have been on guided tours specific to your interest. The advantages of going with a tour group vs. planning and organizing a trip on your own is that everything is taken care of, and a travel agent is available for emergency calls 24/7. 
  • Once you have chosen a tour and destination, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for a list of recommended vaccinations for that location. Visit your medical provider before you go to discuss the list and to receive any vaccinations you may need.

– Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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